I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome back our returning students after their summer break and to extend a huge welcome to all those new students and staff in Chapel today.
For many of you, this is a new campus and new adventure with fresh challenges to face. There will be moments when you are lost, unsure and a little wobbly over the next couple of days and weeks as you learn the rhythm of Shawnigan.
Please do not hesitate to ask fellow students and staff for direction and guidance. For those returning into a new academic year and the next grade, new experiences and challenges await you.
As I said to the new parents yesterday, the plaque at the base of the Shawnigan stag reminds us that it…
‘…will watch over all who enter these grounds’.
A reassuring message to us all.
It is impossible for me to define ‘This is Shawnigan…’ - the spirit of the place - but what I can tell you is that the pillars of a successful and flourishing co-educational boarding school are ‘Conversation, Compassion and Community – and Courage’…..the courage to step forward for new challenges, new opportunities.
All four are at the very heart of of Shawnigan.
It vital that we remember that our School is a Canadian boarding school located in beautiful British Columbia – and our local surroundings combine to create a playground of the gods.
Our aim is to introduce you to the history of this place.
Last week, staff attended a day of professional development to learn about various Indigenous Ways. The Pro-D was filled with experiential learning ranging from playing lacrosse, to storytelling, to making dreamcatchers, to learning about the way of council, to re-enacting Canada’s colonial past – and was delivered by Indigenous Elders, athletes, artists and educators. The objective of the day was to reach a better understanding of Indigenous Ways that will, ultimately, foster healthy community building.
Our responsibility is to pass on this learning to our students.
Again and again, I meet members of staff, students and parents who identify the unique sense of community we all contribute to at Shawnigan.
Shawnigan is defined by our commitment to generosity, kindness and respect for each other. We tread softly around other peoples’ dreams.
From the outset, it is the expectation that that we all make a positive and supportive contribution and make a difference to our Shawnigan community.
Chapel is very much part of this. We gather here, as representatives of many faiths, to connect, share and support.
Friendship is a vital ingredient here at Shawnigan.
The shared experiences and conversations between individuals is, I believe, part of the magic of our School. What you learn about yourself and your friends along the way is at the heart of the experience.
Looking back over the course of the summer, much has happened under the Shawnigan banner.
I have heard many reports of student activities and achievements – from travels and community service to success in sports competitions.
The campus has been buzzing with activity, hosting just under 5000 visitors during the summer season – from supporting Syrian refugees now based in the Cowichan valley to hosting sports camps. I am hugely grateful to those students and staff working on campus who contributed to the successful delivery of all the events.
We also currently have Disney on campus…..
Earlier this summer, our School was approached by Disney to be a film location for a production of the “Upside Down Magic” book series. The film follows the misadventures of Nory, the youngest in a family of magicians, who finds herself relegated to a class for misfits after one magical mishap too many.
The campus has been transformed over the past few weeks into extraordinary set locations – Shawnigan has become the magical world of ‘Sage Academy’ with Chapel, Mitchell Hall, Marion Hall, the Library, Renfrew House completely re-imagined.
Drew, the film producer sent me this message yesterday: ‘Thank you for your team’s support and guidance in making Shawnigan Lake School and its beauty the lead character in our story’
Some of our local students took the initiative to audition for roles as ‘extras’ and have been working as part of the cast. We plan to host a screening of the movie when it is released for the new Disney+ channel next summer.
I would also like to thank all staff involved in running pre-season sports camps and Grade 12 gatherings last weekend – and the prefects and grade 12s for giving our new students such a wonderful welcome yesterday.
We are also delighted to open Stanton House for Grade 8 girls with Ms Gill, Ms Linn and Mr Venables as the staff team. Stanton House is named after the first school nurse at Shawnigan, Eleanor Stanton, who worked here from 1918 to 1962.
She was a remarkable woman who nursed the students, taught Physical Education and cricket, was chief gardener, and swam in the lake every day from April to October for 43 years. She met all Shawnigan challenges, no matter what arose - even standing on the running board of our Founder’s car as he drove the Malahat in thick fog to ensure he did not go over the edge of the mountain because the road was not marked and there was no fence in those days!
It is a fitting tribute to one of the first female members of staff that we open a House – a home away from home - in her honour this week.
We have chosen the logo of the oak tree and acorn in reference to the Lonsdale oak which stands between Stanton and Lake’s.
My message for the academic term ahead is: work hard, connect, be thoughtful and mindful of others, respect the campus, share a sense of place and belonging – and do and be the best you can be.
I am certain that you will not remember what I said this evening to launch the academic year but I hope that you remember how you felt sitting together in your Houses for the first time.
I shall finish with a quotation from Mikayla, one of our Heads of School, who welcomed the new students yesterday. In her address, she perceptively observed:
‘Shawnigan is truly one of a kind: it is a home, an identity and a place that opens the doors to unimaginable opportunities’.
Enjoy yourselves and good luck with the term ahead.
4th September 2019